July 1, 2019

Misplaced Guilt – an IEMT case study

By Mickey Berkel, IEMT Trainer
Tel Aviv, Israel.

A while back, I had a youth counsellor and therapist that came to me with a difficult trauma that she went through. She was overwhelmed by it and flooded with tears.

She was helping a young teenager to release her Separation Anxiety.  Among other problematic behaviours, the teen used to excessively kiss and hug her mother every time the mother left the house, even for 5 minutes.

After a few NLP sessions, the teenage girl had released her Separation Anxiety.

On the day after the last session with the counsellor, the mother of the teen was killed in a car crash. The following day, in the funeral the teen came to the therapist and told her: “It happened on the first day I didn't kiss and hug my mother goodbye…”

The counsellor came to me a few hours after the funeral, highly charged with very bad emotions.

Without getting too deep into the story, we realised that she is ridden with guilt, and although we could logically understand where the guilt comes from - It was misplaced guilt.

Misplaced guilt

Guilt usually comes from “doing things I was not supposed to do”, it’s like breaking my own rules.  In the talking therapies world, we usually do our best to help our clients live their life in healthy and powerful ways in order to promote their quality of life…

When they have emotions, thoughts and behaviours that hurt their quality of life, we have the skills and tools to work there.
It is very important that we remember - we don't have control over people!  On what happens to them in life, on how they behave, and how they choose to react to life’s happenings when they are not in our clinic.  And although from a professional ethics viewpoint, we should put as many elements on the conversational table; check the ecology of the change process and achieve behavioural and emotional goals - we don't have the ability to see everything nor predict the future. So we do the best we can with the tools we have, and the circumstances.

And that is when we are regarding a clients behaviour - so more so, when it is about events that are out of our control entirely.

Like in this case, no one could have predicted that the mother will be killed in a car accident 2 days after the girl released her abandonment anxiety.

And here some therapist has a cognitive dissonance - because the therapist knows that all of this is not under their responsibility, BUT and it is an important ‘but’’  “It feels different!  It feels as if the therapist could have done something about it. They were not acting on their own rules and the guilt comes in and fills them up.

This dissonance alone can drive a person crazy,  I call this: “the intelligent people disease” .  The more intelligent the person is, the more sophisticated the way he or she will find to drive themselves mad when encountering cognitive dissonance.

Using IEMT with the therapist

As I noticed that she has some misplaced guilt, driving her Emotional-Intellectual battle, I choose one of the more effective tools in my therapist arsenal. I took the Kinaesthetic protocol out of the IEMT repertoire.  This protocol allows me to ask about the emotion that the client has, ask questions that help find an earlier cause, and then with moving her eyes on specific axes, helps her release the huge emotional baggage that was attached to her thought or memory. So that it makes it easier to talk about and reprocess the memory or thought.

Doing this we’ve discovered that her emotion of guilt, which was at a level of 8 out 10, is an echo from a much earlier memory from an event 15 years ago. A memory that had a lot of guilt attached to it.  Once we completed the eye movements on that memory, the guilt was gone, and it was replaced by a strong feeling of missing out.

Doing the K protocol again, it became aware that that feeling was from an older memory, 20 years ago. Once we did the eye movement on that memory, the strong feeling of missing out, reduced and changed to an emotion of understanding.  She understood she did the best she could at that moment.  The IEMT K Protocol helped the therapist release emotional charges that she was carrying with her for many years, and it allowed her to reprocess the memory of the girl in the funeral from a totally different place.     

Advantages of choosing to work with IEMT in this case:

And before I continue, it is important for me to talk a bit about the pros of this process:

The questioning process allows the therapist and his client to reach emotionally charged memories, without the need of the client to talk about them. One of the great advantages of this of course, is that we can actually have a process without content.  Something that helps the client work through some of their heavily charged memories, without feeling the shame or guilt or fear that can arise from just thinking about sharing those memories with someone else. This way the client will be able to do some work on matters that in the past they wouldn't do because of the fear/guilt/shame that comes with thinking about sharing their story.

Back to the funeral:

As a test to the work we’ve done, I asked the therapist: “when you think now about the event in the funeral, what happens?”

The therapist, which looked a lot calmer and self trusting said that she can use reframing and inoculations to the experience of the girl, and to answer my question she said:

I can tell the girl, that we are lucky that we did the releasing of the fear of abandonment because now she will be stronger to deal with this very hard event. Now she will have much more strength, because she does not have the fear of abandonment any more, so this is something that she does not have to struggle any more, which means that the days that will come, hard as they might be, she will be able to find inside herself the powers to endure and hold her mother in her heart, so that she will always know, inside, that her mother is always with her, in heart, thoughts and feelings… and that can be for her a great resource for life, and maybe one day a present to the world.

I liked very much this reframe because there are many insights from the “resolving grief” process in it.

In a follow-up I did with the therapist, a few days later,  I’ve checked how she feels with the whole event and what are her thoughts about it.  I was very happy to know that not only she is in a very trusting and strong place, she is also there for the girl who kept coming to her to continue working and coping with the unfortunate event.

Summary, insights and some more questions:

From my experience in the clinic and my understanding of IEMT,  I see again the way that a person has a misplaced emotion… an emotion that is an echo of an early emotional imprint.  And their (sometimes futile sometimes destructive) attempt to find a rational explanation for their dissonance or their feelings of uncertainty that they feel when the Misplaced Emotion happens, in order to explain to themselves - why do I feel this way, in this event, although logically I am not supposed to feel this?

The understandings and questions that arises as a therapist and as a human being, that when I have this or that emotion in an event - It will be good to be able to recognise when it is an emotion (that I don’t have a name for it yet) and when it is a thought, if and when we find the difference between them, we might avoid unnecessary dissonances and from the “Curse of the intelligent people”.

Good luck,

Mickey Berkal


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